Advertising
Advertising

How to Launch a Business Without Spending a Dime

How to Launch a Business Without Spending a Dime
Money

The biggest mistake I see first time entrepreneurs make is that they spend too much money.

They rent an office or retail location, pay big incorporation fees, hire employees, and build an expensive website (just to name a few). And all before they’ve earned their first dollar!

Advertising

Each month their cash reserves get lower and lower while they struggle to make sales to cover their expenses. Eventually the fledgling business dies with no cash flow, leaving the owner hurt emotionally and financially.

Luckily, it is possible (and actually quite simple) to start up a business without spending a dime. The beauty of using this method is that you can test out a new business idea quickly and with zero risk. And instead of spending time negotiating leases or dealing with employees, you can spend 100% of your time on the most important thing: making that first sale!

Advertising

The first thing you’ve got to do is get past the idea of spending. Work out of your home or Starbucks on nights and weekends. Instead of hiring employees just get started with what you can do yourself, or ask friends for help. Don’t incorporate just yet, be a sole proprietorship. Don’t hire an expensive graphic artist to make your logo, stick with something simple…you get the idea.

You can spend money on all that stuff once you are bringing in revenue!

Advertising

Now to actually get started, here are 10 steps you can use to launch a new business, without spending a dime. The first five are logistical. The last five are all free ways to market your business (after all, the most important step is bringing in that first sale!)

  1. Get an EIN at the IRS website
    This one is specific to the USA, but all companies need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can apply for one online at the irs.gov in about 5 minutes by clicking here. List yourself as a sole proprietor for now.
  2. Setup Your Business Financials
    Get a free business checking account. This will allow you to keep your business’s money separate and track it (vitally important!). I like Washington Mutual’s free business checking. They will also give you a debit card to track your expenses (never use a credit card) which are currently zero! Then get a Paypal account and link it to your business account so you can accept payments.
  3. Choose a domain name
    The fastest ways to get eyeballs on your new business is the internet these days. Choose a domain name that is a keyword phrase your potential customers might type into a search engine. So if you are offering salsa lessons in Boston, you might choose “SalsaLessonsBoston.com”. The benefit of doing this is that you will most likely end up on the first page of Google results for that keyword phrase within a month or two. This will bring your customesr, and is much better than showing up on the first page for “John Smith’s Salsa Company” or something that no one ever searches for.
  4. Make a simple website
    The fastest way I know of to launch a website is using WordPress (wordpress.com or wordpress.org). If you don’t mind using a subdomain like “mydomain.wordpress.com” it’s free. But even if you want your own domain you can get one with WordPress pre-installed for about $70/year. WordPress comes with over 2500 “themes” to change the look and a great back end interface to edit the pages just like you’re in Microsoft word. LifeHack.org uses WordpPress as do many other popular sites.
  5. Set Your Prices
    Most first time entrepreneurs set their prices too low. People assume low prices mean low quality, and you are worth more. Give away your product or service to the first five customers free if you’d like (it will help built buzz and you can ask them for testimonials), but after that set your price in the top 1/3 of your industry. It’s always easier to lower them than to raise them.
  6. Start Marketing on CraigsList.com
    The next five steps are all free marketing. Start by making regular posts on Craigslist.com. This is a free classified website that attracts millions of viewers. You can get some traffic to your website instantly by making some posts here, and you should continue to repost them every few days.
  7. Start a Meetup.com Group
    Meetup.com helps people with similar interests get together. If a group exists in your area with potential customers, join it. Try to be invited as a guest speaker and offer value to members of the group (don’t pitch them). Just by making friends and helping out you will start to bring in business. If a MeetUp group for your topic doesn’t exist yet, that’s even better. Start one up! You’ll be viewed as the authority in the area.
  8. Post a Video to YouTube.com
    YouTube is a video sharing website, and it gets ridiculous amounts of traffic. It’s actually easier to make a video than you think, and it doesn’t have to be professional at all. You can record one with your digital camera, make a screen recording of your computer (even a powerpoint presentation) with software like Camtasia, or purchase a $20 webcam. Teach or show something useful, and include a link to your site at the end of the video. You will get traffic!
  9. Network
    Send an email to all your friends and family (and really everyone on your contact list) telling them about the business you just started. Put a note at the end asking them to forward the note to anyone they know who might be interested (and tell them about the free offer for the first five customers). You’ll not only reach your network, but you’ll reach your network’s network (an exponential difference). You should also get people’s business cards that you meet (far more effective than giving them since few people will write you back) and offer to help them.
  10. Write an Article and Give it Away!
    Even if you aren’t a writer, you can put together a great article. Think of something your potential customers might want to know. Then write a “top ten” list (e.g. the top ten beginner salsa moves) or a “ten step” format (e.g. the then steps to learning salsa basics). Contact the owners of a dozen different websites that your potential customers might visit, and see if they’d like to use your article for free. Include a link to your website at the bottom in the “About the Author” section.

Using this simple format you can launch a new business in about a month, and hopefully make your first sale. But the best part is, even if it doesn’t work, you’ve learned a priceless lesson and risked little or no money.

Advertising

Don’t spend a single red cent that isn’t absolutely required when launching a new business! See if your idea works first, and then spend AFTER you’ve made your first sale!

Brian Armstrong is the author of Breaking Free, which shows how to quit your job and start your first business! You can download three FREE chapters of the book and sign up for his FREE online course

More by this author

How To Instantly Feel Better When You Are Depressed 8 Essential Skills They Didn’t Teach You In School How To Make A Bunch Of New Friends In Any New City Tired in the morning and awake at night? Here is a REAL solution. How to Launch a Business Without Spending a Dime

Trending in Featured

1 Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) 2 How To Start a Conversation with Anyone 3 Where Am I Going? How to Put Your Life in Context 4 How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day 5 5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

Advertising

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

Advertising

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Advertising

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

Advertising

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

More About Self-Learning

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Read Next